This is the school where my daughter has just started graduate work, and now a scathing review of the philosophy departments’ practices has been released. Turns out it was a nest of snakes. (Fortunately, my daughter is in the computer science department, and believe me, she’d be speaking out if things were this bad there).
…it is our strong conclusion that the Department maintains an environment with unacceptable sexual harassment, inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior, and divisive uncivil behavior. Members of most groups we talked to report directly observing inappropriate behavior. This behavior has harmed men and women members of every stakeholder group in the Department.
Some assistant and full professors (both male and female) report responding to this situation by working from home, dropping out of departmental life, and avoiding socializing with colleagues. Several faculty members’ reputations for bad behavior place a higher service work burden on colleagues. Women are leaving or trying to leave in disproportionate numbers. [note: the report does not name names or describe specific incidents. --pzm]
The female graduate students report being anxious, demoralized, and depressed. Some female students report that they avoid working with some faculty members because of things that they have heard about those faculty members. Some female students report avoiding working with faculty members because they directly witnessed or were subjected to this harassment and inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior. There was and is a lack of support for students who lost their advisors or instructors due to sanctions. The female graduate students would like more women in the department but they cannot recommend this department as a good place to come.
In addition, male graduate students report being extremely worried about the climate of harassment. They are worried that they will be tainted by the national reputation of the department as being hostile to women. They are worried about getting a job letter from someone who has a bad reputation when the student does not know exactly who has a bad reputation. They are concerned that the lack of administrative support for the Department resulting from the climate of harassment [i.e. “provost saying, ‘no more departmental support until the department shapes up’”] will negatively affect their abilities to succeed. They avoid some faculty because they do not want to have a reputation that might come with being advised by a harasser (a problem exacerbated by lack of certainty about who the harassers are). And some are angry in discovering the severe problems in the department that they didn’t know about before they arrived.
It’s good to see that they point out that an epidemic of sexism is bad for the men as well as the women.
Man, I hear this kind of thing all the time about philosophy departments — philosophy and engineering seem to be the major repositories of sexist behavior in academe. You’d think philosophy would enable a rational perspective, and it’s a mystery to me why so many suddenly go so stupid on sexual harassment.
Although this paragraph suggests a possible reason.
The Department uses pseudo-philosophical analyses to avoid directly addressing the situation. Their faculty discussions revolve around the letter rather than the spirit of proposed regulations and standards. They spend too much time articulating (or trying to articulate) the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior instead of instilling higher expectations for professional behavior. They spend significant time debating footnotes and “what if” scenarios instead of discussing what they want their department to look and feel like. In other words, they spend time figuring out how to get around regulations rather than focusing on how to make the department supportive of women and family-friendly.
Ah, that’s how the power of philosophy can be corrupted to do great evil: it’s a whole mob of people trained in the virtues of reflexive devil’s advocacy.